Once a year
Cherry Blossoms, Kyoto
The Japanese have a word for admiring cherry blossoms: hamami. The moment the first delicate petals appear on the silver branches, the locals lay out picnic sheets and share rose-coloured rice balls, toffee strawberries, beer and sake, beneath the clouds of pink.
Inevitably, this seasonal showstopper attracts huge crowds, especially in Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital. Perhaps it’s the contrast between the pale, ethereal flowers and the dark wooden houses, or the geishas attending tea ceremonies in their magnificent kimonos.
You certainly won’t be the only one admiring the sakura, Japan’s national flower, at popular sites such as the Philosopher’s Path and the temple of Kiyomizu-dera. As the 12th-century poet Saigyo said: “The cherries’ only fault: the crowds that gather when they bloom.”
Peak cherry blossom season is short —usually two scant weeks in late March or April — and hotels in Kyoto are booked out months ahead. But we have tracked down an authentic retreat where you can immerse yourself in this natural wonder in blissful tranquillity.
Hoshinoya Resort is located in the emerald Arashiyama valley, just outside Kyoto. The hotel’s wooden motorboat glides along the Katsura River until you arrive at a 100-year-old ryokan (inn) that’s been given a thoughtful, contemporary update.
The architecture pays tribute to Kyoto craftsmanship: tatami mat floors, latticed lanterns, and hand-made, woodblock wallpaper. Rooms are scattered among meditative landscaped gardens, with cascading cherry blossoms framed by sliding paper screens.
Hoshinoya is a deeply traditional immersion into Japanese culture and nature.Japanese acupuncturists, herbalists, and shiatsu therapists are on hand to restore your equilibrium. Temple bells occasionally reverberate through the forest. Set out before dawn for the rare experience of early morning meditation in a Zen temple.
Selected mages courtesy of Hoshinoya Resorts.